ULG's Language Services Blog

Common Legal Translation Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

In a global economy built on competition and efficiency, it's imperative that you avoid the pitfalls of legal translation. Misused phrases, misplaced hyphens and poor syntax — mistakes as commonplace as they are difficult to catch — have the potential to severely jeopardize the success of your translated legal documents. Below, we’ll talk a little bit more about how to avoid these common mistakes.

  • Experience counts. You wouldn't ask your plumber to write up a contract, so why would you hire anyone less than a professional legal linguist to translate your legal document? Only a skilled legal linguist will be able to avoid the common mistakes such as the plural of general counsel is general counsel, not general counsels. Be sure to verify the linguist’s credentials.
  • Pay attention to sensitive content/clauses. Did you know that the German civil code includes separate definitions for the concepts of “warranty” and “guarantee” in sales contracts? Someone has to, and that someone is your translator. Failure to call attention to the most essential components of your legal document — such as country-specific terminology and proper syntax — does nobody any good, so speak up!
  • Don’t forget to draft documents with translation in mind. Since we all know what they say about reaping and sowing, it's crucial that you plan ahead when preparing your legal document. Glossaries and style guides each play a vital role in the accuracy of your translated contract, and the amount of time they'll save you in the long run is invaluable. In addition, it’s a good idea to keep the layout as simple as possible and plan for possible text expansion/contraction which can vary by 25-50% per language.
  • Build a winning team. For smaller one off projects working with a freelance legal translator can be an acceptable cost-effective approach. However, for more complex, multi-language translation projects you may need a translation agency. For example, ULG’s network of professional translators and award-winning project managers are well-equipped to help you translate a variety of complicated legal documents in more than 125 languages.

The, final, crucial, you'll-be-sorry-if-you-miss-it hot take? Legal documents are simply too important to gamble with. Ensuring that your original document's nuance and legalese survive translation is the difference between a successfully translated contract and an opportunity lost.

Have questions? We’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our professional, award-winning legal translation services.

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